Achy Breaky (Back)
This post is dedicated to the physical pain we all tuck away in the back seat of our lives every single day in order to keep on keeping on. For most of us, that pain resides in our backs - Maybe our low back. Maybe one side. Maybe that extends down our leg. Maybe our upper back. Maybe all the places. But it lives there and it asks us for help and we say, maybe tomorrow. I would guess we also say mean things to ourselves, as if back pain measures us as less fit, less strong, less healthy, less agile, and certainly way too old.
I’ve dealt with back pain for as long as I can remember, even as a young dancer and even right now as I sit here writing this post. Today, to be honest, it’s just not that huge of a deal for me, thankfully. I can’t believe I can actually type that sentence, but there it is. I don’t feel alone with it like I once did or without tools to quiet its intensity. It used to feel like a stealthy threat, ready to pounce with ferocity as soon as I tried to do anything human: Bend over, lie flat on my back, twist or jump, take a walk. And yet, at the same time, it was hard for me to talk about. I was a successful Pilates teacher who helped other people’s back pain. I was a former ballet dancer. I was strong. I was young. All in all, the equation was clear: I shouldn’t have back pain - especially debilitating back pain - and any indication that I did seemed to disqualify me from any of my identities.
But, yet, this back pain is what led me here to my work in MommaStrong. It truly did start from a low place of helplessness, which seemed to be the ground I needed to start asking the right questions and then become inevitably twisted around when everything I had been taught about my back and my core proved wrong. And while, yes, I started to heal from the acute phase of my back pain, a bigger thing began to happen: I started to see that I had harbored this quiet assumption all along that I was broken or doing it all wrong.
The assumption at that point, from all I had been taught, was that if you had a strong core, then you didn’t have back pain. If you had back pain, then you were weak. Inherently weak. I believed this and kept things quiet because of it. I still remember bending over to pick up Pilates equipment for a client and nearly doubling over in pain, but then claiming I had stubbed my toe.
But, as time went on with my work in MommaStrong and as I began to feel better, the bigger discovery was even if I was perhaps weak in some ways, it was only because my body had been horribly neglected after pregnancy and childbirth. I had been given limited tools to “bounce back” and all my trauma and all the injuries related to birth and postpartum were shoved into a tiny bucket labeled, New Mom Complaints. The end result was hiding, silence, self-blame, and a general feeling that I was a stick ready to break - so, best to be still.
The lessons over the years and the ones I am learning right now remind me of how scary it feels when you don’t know what is happening with your spine or when pain sneaks into this part of the body. It affects our nervous systems and our sense of safety. We lose trust in our body and, more profoundly, we lock away all the healing we need after birth and accept a new, more limited version of the way we move and exist. This can be devastating, especially as we gain autonomy from the tiny people who grew inside us - that instead of returning to ourselves, there’s grief and loss as we reconcile the reductions in ease and adventure.
In the face of this grief and loss, every person I know dealing with it finds a common way through: We begin to believe that there is a magic pill or a magic solution that will finally solve it and we will be free. I haven’t found this to be the case, not in all my years (omg decades) of doing this work. It’s only recently that I have begun to shift from the idea of solutions to the notion of “conversations”. It’s almost as if I have been having an argument with my body for so many years, something that needs to be resolved, won, or heard. So, now, when I feel a pull to argue and solve, I dip back and opt-in for a conversation instead.
There is so much we can take action on once we get here to a conversation, once we aren’t searching for a forever fix. I sort of see it like the dishes now - it might be something that requires daily work and maybe isn’t ever done. And, to be more profound, it feels like the major lesson I learned in recovery from substance abuse: I am not ever recovered, I am always recovering. And that’s ok. That’s actually kind of beautiful, albeit humbling and not without loss.
SO, please join me this month as Jya and I dive into the subject of Back Pain in our November Hook, especially focused on Sciatica and SI Joint Dysfunction. We will tackle all the ways this affects our lives alongside the latest things I am learning about causes of back pain and more feasible approaches to management of back pain.
The November Hook starts on Monday, Nov 6th. You can register for it by clicking here - and, if you are a new member, just a heads up that you’ll have to first sign up for our intro offer of $5 first by clicking here in order to get access to The Hook and our content.
OH, and in case you don’t know how a Hook works, you register for it and then we send you weekly emails and weekly community posts that contain a mini podcast episode on the theme, some printable materials, and a summary of all we are learning together. During that time, you also will attempt to show up for daily-ish exercise, which we will encourage you to track by using an old-school coloring sheet.
See you soon soon. :)